Portal 2 almost had fake endings, terrible multiplayer and no portals

Writers Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek reveal the things that got left out of last year’s GOTY

Beyond things that came out and then went back in, the panel revealed that Wheatley – the charmingly stupid sphere that acts as Chell’s guide at the beginning of Portal 2 (and who, it turns out, was originally envisioned as being voiced by actor Richard Ayoade instead of Stephen Merchant) – was, at one point, meant to be killed permanently when GlaDOS woke up. Instead of Wheatley, players would interact with six other spheres, including a paranoid one who surrounded himself with defense turrets (but pointed them all one way, enabling Chell to easily slip behind him with a portal, pluck him off his pedestal and bash him against a wall before dropping him down some stairs).

Also of interest was what Wolpaw called the “Morgan Freeman” sphere, a personality core that had been sitting in the same 20-by-20-foot space for several centuries, and was full of folksy, homespun wisdom about it – until you took him even a few feet out of the space, at which point his mind was blown, and he became useless. Eventually he found his feet again, Wolpaw said, although all of his wisdom and anecdotes would invariably relate back to 20-by-20-foot spaces.

As funny as that sounds, Wolpaw said that a lot of players ended up missing Wheatley, and that they didn’t spend enough time with the other spheres to really bond with them. So Wheatley came back, ultimately becoming one of Portal 2’s most important characters.

Above: And so, Wheatley's dramatic death by crushing was made less permanent

Not all cuts were character-based, and in fact several gameplay elements never made it to production. At one point, suction tubes were going to play a role in puzzle-solving, with players able to break them open and use portals to redirect the suction. Also, during co-op, GlaDOS would have realized that – as experiments with no human observers – her endless tests with the robots P-Body and Atlas were in a state of quantum uncertainty, like Schrodinger’s Cat. So in an attempt to make the bots more human, she would have sent them after human artifacts, one of which was a Garfield-parody comic strip someone had pinned up, called Dorfeldt (which was drawn by Anthony "Nedroid" Clark, and which we suspect evolved out of this somewhat-NSFW cartoon by Portal 2 writer Jay Pinkerton).

The Dorfeldt gag involved three panels in which Dorfeldt’s owner gets mad at him for eating all the lasagna. Neither GlaDOS nor the bots would have understood how that could be considered funny, and so GlaDOS would have added three more panels, in which the owner activates neurotoxin emitters and Dorfeldt reflects on his poor decision-making before dying.

Above: It's sad Dorfeldt didn't make the cut, but these two didn't really need much more humanizing

Originally, co-op wasn’t going to be Portal 2’s only form of multiplayer, and plans were laid out early on for a competitive version (which was labeled “Portal Kombat” during the presentation). “It was kind of a mix between the old Amiga game Speedball and Portal, except with none of the good parts of either of those two games,” Wolpaw said. “It was super-chaotic, difficult to tell what was going on, and no fun. The only real good news about this part was that we cut it pretty quickly and were able to use those resources to develop co-op a little more.”

At one point, Portal 2 was also set to feature several fake endings. “When we were watching Portal 1 playtests, there’s a part about two-thirds through the game where you ride an elevator into a firepit, and you’re supposed to escape the firepit, and that’s when you go behind the scenes,” Wolpaw said. “But a small percentage of playtesters were just fine with riding the elevator into the firepit. Like, that was a good ending for them. It was dark, but they liked it. So we thought, ‘we’ll service those people.’"

Above: Some people thought this was a fitting end to Portal. Weirdos

“We had these… parts where Chell would die, and that would be the end, and we’d play a song, and if you wanted to, you could just quit there,” Wolpaw said. “So we had one that was like two minutes into the game, and if you died there, there was just a song that… was just about reviewing those first two minutes.”

Later in the game, Wolpaw said, there was a point where you could see the moon overhead, shoot a portal onto it, shoot another one onto the wall, and you’d be sucked out into space and asphyxiate while listening to a sad song about the moon. (Wolpaw later said this was the sad song that played in one of Portal 2's Rat Man Dens, so it's likely he was talking about Exile, Vilify, which isn't about the moon but is pretty sad nonetheless).

Above: Here's a cool video of Exile, Vilify by YouTube user faceofdoomness

While they alternate endings went over well with playtesters, they were eventually cut, because of “how much work it was going to be for how little payoff, and partly because, other than those two, we had kind of overestimated how many great fake endings we were going to be able to come up with,” Wolpaw said.

The moon does play a role in the game’s actual ending, though, and it helped the writers come up a finale that was much better than the one they had originally planned. In order to break the game’s climactic stalemate, Chell would, for the first and only time, speak a single word: “Yes.” And while that sounds a little intriguing, Wolpaw did his best to assure the GDC crowd that it was horrible. “It was the classic idea… you have this great idea, and it sounds awesome! Chell’s finally going to speak. One word! And it’s going to be the one that ends the game,” Wolpaw said.

“Boy, did it suck,” Faliszek said.


After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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